The Impresario’s Path to the Audience’s Show

There is value is putting on a show for some audiences.

Without the show, there is no connection. Without the show, there is no invitation to participation. Without the show, there is no permission to be vulnerable in ways that will create value and impact.





These are the ingredients for the show to work. The dilemma of the impresario is that she must perform a sacrifice of herself every time she steps up to put on the show.

Without the impresario, there is no show. Without the impresario, there is no opportunity to become a sacrifice for the audience. Without the impresario, there is no on to take responsibility and to be accountable in the event the performance fails.





The path to becoming an impresario looks wide, but it is really narrow. The road to putting on the show looks easy but is in actuality quite difficult.

Many of us are watching many others put on a show, be impresarios, and then wondering, if only for a brief moment, why we can’t do the same thing.

The path to being an impresario is open and the road to the show is available to any and everybody.

But you have to commit to the work.

Obligation is a Funny Thing

Obligation is a funny thing.

And not funny as “ha-ha” but funny as in “Isn’t this a modern irony?”

The NFL owners voted almost unanimously this week, to move the Raiders franchise from Oakland to Las Vegas (a move fraught with its own implications in a professional sport full of people with questionable moral and ethical decision making practices…but bear with me) and their explanations to the fans of why they are moving, is reflective of a larger shift in our culture around the concept of obligation.

The attitude encapsulated in the owners’ comments following the vote reflects two views of obligation:

The first view is that of “we owe you nothing.” The franchise and the team played games, grew a fan base, and gave the entertainment to the fans of the sport that they craved. In exchange, the fans gave the team and franchise money through ticket sales and more.

Purely transactional.

The second view of obligation is that of “the only thing I ever owed you was a ‘good time.’” The players, the ownership (I’m a Denver Broncos fan, I know), and even the overall notorious behavior of the franchise reflected this “good time.” In exchange, the fans (both locally and regionally) gave the team, the owners, and the franchise attention, awareness, and an audience.

This is also purely transactional and reflects a view of obligation based not in attaining revenues of money, but attaining revenues of attention and trust. It’s the view that Frank Sinatra had about his life versus his performances, and that many celebrities of all stripes seem to have abandoned in recent years.

There are two large perspectives to consider here, both of which relate to conflict management and our real lives, as well as one small—but salient—point:

  1. Our lives are never purely transactional in nature. There is always an exchange of emotion for revenues (either trust or money) and that transaction has never been more valuable than now in our overall organizational and public cultures.
  2. Our conflicts are based on other people barreling past our obligations and asking us to give more emotionally, than we may be prepared to give.  However, the reality is that our personal boundaries around obligation must expand, or our management (not to mention our resolutions) will be task oriented, thinly veiled attempts to get to a relationship based goal we don’t really value, with the other party.

The small point is this: The organizations and leaders that understand the nature of obligation and the power they wield in a transactional relationship, will attain far greater—and far more meaningful—outcomes from individuals, societies, and cultures, than those that don’t understand.

Or even worse, those that don’t care—or never cared—in the first place.

The Hard Thing About The Hard Questions

The hard questions aren’t ones that you just need to think about harder, to get to a binary answer.

Binary answers.

“What the other party wants to hear” answers.

“Feel good” answers.

Wrong answers.

Right answers.

The compelling issue is not that the questions are hard, or that they are scary.

The issue is that the answers frighten you because of their implications around responsibility, accountability, safety, and security.

But the only way out of a conflict is to go further in.

Thinking harder about a binary answer isn’t the way to get to more resolution.

Neither is thinking about how to structure the answer to get the other party on your side.

Sometimes, answering the hard question really requires you to pick an answer, stand up, and courageously defend it.

Where the Hammer Will Fall the Hardest

The courage to make the decision to act in the first place is the thing that is lacking the most.

The courage to raise our hands, take responsibility, and to engage with accountability (rather than assigning blame or taking credit) is the work that your children will eventually be paid for.

But not handsomely.

It’s also the work that you’re not getting paid for now, but that your boss, team leader, supervisor, or coach really wants you to lean into.

The people who understand these two principles, that are now coming online as fundamentals of development, engagement, and interaction between people, will “win” the future.

In case you’re thinking “Well what if I don’t want to be responsible beyond my own desire to be? What’s the future look like for me and my children?”

The top three areas of growth, innovation, and development (which will translate to wealth making and value creation in the future) will be in the following areas if the current trajectory of education, work, organizations, and society, doesn’t change significantly:

Making something so “new,” no one has ever thought of it.

Working for the person who made the “new” thing.

Selling the “new” thing.

But since “new” things only come along once in a great while (i.e. the car, the I-phone, the Internet, etc.) the chances of being able to survive as a visionary as the first one are slim.

Which means that in the next two areas, working for someone who’s innovating, or selling the innovation, education, work, organizations, and society need more individual people to behave courageously, engage where it’s uncomfortable, and do the things that are hard now in the present-day, which will resemble a game of patty cake later.

Courage (the lack of it, the abundance of it, or just enough of it) is where the hammer of the unknown in the future will fall the hardest.

Are your children ready?

Are you?

[Strategy] Why So Few Self-Aware Organizations?

Organizations, founders, managers, and employees who are self-aware do better than those who aren’t.

This should come as no surprise, but in an economic, social, and even political climate where “knowing thyself” is as mysterious as “knowing thy customers,” it becomes incumbent upon an organization–and the people employed by it–to be self-aware.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What does our organization do here in the world?
    • Why are we doing it?
    • Is what we’re doing useful, not to the market or to our customers, but also to the overall economy?
  • Does our company care?
  • Are we just here to satisfy our shareholders?
  • If our employees don’t care (or do care) why do they care and how do we grow what they care about?
  • What do other people (i.e. the market (fans, customers, clients, shareholders)) think that we do?
    • If there’s a chasm between those two perceptions, how do we cross it, if we want to, or how do we live with it, if we don’t?
  • Are we recruiting, interviewing, and hiring people that are self-aware about why they want to be here?
    • And if we aren’t, how do we get them to leave in a way that honors them and makes space for the kind of people we want to be here?

Answering all (or any) of these questions honestly and clearly, requires the courage to speak up, be in the room, stay engaged, and be open to self-critique.

And in case you’re wondering if this all actually works, well here’s a little something to watch

HIT Piece 10.25.2016

The top six questions for leaders (or aspiring leaders) at work, are as follows:

  • Who is responsible for the organizational culture at work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is responsible for the conflict culture at work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is responsible for the innovation at work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is responsible for having the courage to change? You, or your boss?
  • Who is going to accept responsibility if changing doesn’t work? You, or your boss?
  • Who is going to get the credit if changing creates more productivity at work? You, or your boss?

The answers to those six questions will define how you work, where you work, and what outcomes derive from the work that you do.

HIT Piece 3.22.2016

Three benefits accrue to you (or me, or anybody else) when you show up and guest lecture at a college or high school class.

Prestige—I get to show up and talk with (or to) people who are there to hear knowledge and already mentally prepped with the idea that I’m the “expert.” I might not be the “expert” and I might not set myself up as the “expert” but the person (typically the instructor) introducing me to the class has more clout than I do. They set the table and they follow-up.

Accountability—I’m always accountable to other people for everything that I say, that I do, and that I write. But when I guest lecture, there’s almost no feeling of immediate accountability. Which means I have a choice to be accountable, or to be not accountable. Being accountable—and choosing to follow-up and answer questions from participants either in person or via email later—is the prize that participants get when they listen to me ramble on for an hour.

Responsibility—There’s always a measure of responsibility for the outcomes of any speech that accrue to the sender and the receiver. The receiver has a responsibility to actually do something with the information that they receive. But, since there’s rarely any penalty for not taking action (or at least, no immediate penalty) the intrinsic motivation to act must be energized by the sender of the message. The sender’s responsibility is two-fold: To be empathetic and accountable, and to be extrinsically and intrinsically motivating to the attendees.

The benefits may not be apparent immediately to you the guest lecturer, but they are there.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Opinion] Trust + Accountability = Quality

There’s a lot of negative social proofing going on right now.

Some of it is transmitted through social media; some of it comes through more traditional means.

Personal branding as a marketing term has fallen out of popularity, now replaced by the equally amorphous term “thought leader” which will soon be replaced by influencer.

Microcelebrity via YouTube, Vine, Facebook videos, and other forms of entertainment are becoming more and more popular, as the inevitability of tools that enable marketers, brands and individuals to create audiences that show up just for them.

The thing is the courage to create and develop a positive, consistent presence in the face of a lack of positive social proofing has never been in shorter supply than it is right now. At the core of this lack are three crucial areas:

  • Trust: There is a trust shortage. People, personalities and companies that have shown up, day-in and day-out succeed, but will the current crop of YouTube celebrities make it ten more years? And when there’s no belief that the People Who Matter are even paying attention, then organizations and individuals trust themselves more than the community.
  • Accountability: When there is little trust—or even belief that anything (or anybody) worth trusting will show up in the first place—then there is little incentive for people and organizations to stand up and say “Yes, I made this decision.” Social shaming, a continuing erosion of public (and private) empathy, and the increasing visibility of public (and private) narcissism, are the ingredients that create a toxic stew where Bystander Behavior (or worse) is supported, condoned and given a pass.
  • Quality: The quality shortage is most loudly evident in the explosion of voices on social media. But it goes deeper than that. In the pursuit of thinner and thinner profit margins, and with high unemployment and social unrest, the search for quality—of work, of attitude, of standards, of values—becomes a quiet, desperate search, which very few organizational supervisors, human resource hiring managers, recently elected politicians or media talking heads, ever really address.

Trust + Accountability = Quality.

It used to be that circumstances, such as poverty, a lack of articulation, a social power structure, were barriers which could be overcome with a little grit, persistence, faith, trust and accountability.

But the belief that underlies those ideas is eroding because the disconnect between the story behind circumstances, and the reality of erosion in the above three areas, is becoming more and more pronounced.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Strategy] Leading Through Obligation

If you are a manager in an organization of any size, with any mission or scope of responsibility, it is your obligation to lead.


Now, obligation is a loaded word, filled with the stresses of accountability, responsibility, and eating last in a world where everyone wants to eat first.

Obligation comes along with the word “honor,” which, as a verb, means to “fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).

There is a tacit agreement between leaders and followers: Leaders set a tone, provide a secure space for initiatives to be implemented and then codify action through words and deeds. Followers implement the initiatives as they are proposed, rally behind the leader in times of stress or conflict and promote the tone of the actions.

At least, in a perfect world.

Unfortunately, we live in a world of imperfection, mixed motives, lies and deception and selfish pursuits.

In this world, leadership is even more critical and, at the core, requires human leaders to sacrifice resources (material, emotional and even spiritual) in order to accomplish a greater good for their followers—even when they believe that the greater good is wrong.

  • This ability to sacrifice marks the difference between politicians and statesmen.
  • This ability to sacrifice marks the difference between role models and celebrities.
  • This ability to sacrifice marks the difference between leaders and followers.

A leader’s responsibility is not to chart a course for the followers and then blindly lead them there, in spite of everything.

A leader’s responsibility is to chart a course for their followers (after actively listening to their followers) and then convince, persuade, cajole and move the followers toward accomplishing those goals.

This process requires an understanding, and an acceptance of, the definitions of obligation, honor, responsibility, accountability, character and honor.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: